Let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane, shall we?
I just don’t think we do this enough.
So, let’s dive in!
First, think about your best friend…
Who is she? How long have you known her? Do you remember how you met?
Make a note of that.
Next, think about your first job…
What was it? How long ago did you get it? Do you remember how you found out about it?
Make a note of that, too.
Finally, think about your last roommate…
Who was he? How do you know him? Do you remember how you decided to live together?
Make a note of that, as well.
Now, time to synthesize.
For some of you, this exercise may bring up good memories or bad memories… or both. It may remind you of circumstances that were carefully crafted or others that were entirely out of your control… or both. It may even make you realize that the presence of some of the most important things in your life—your best friend, your first job, or your last roommate, for instance—happened because of something completely and utterly random.
Or maybe, just maybe, you might see a pattern start to emerge.
For me, there is a definite and distinct pattern related to all three of these things.
And here it is…
I, Tracy Timm, am…
And you thought you were about to get a mini-dose of Buddha-like knowledge.
No wise words or nerdy nuggets here—just the simple truth. I have spent most of my life trying to play it cool (whatever it is) and hold it all together (again, it remains uber-nebulous), but when I’m truly honest with myself, I’ve come to realize this unavoidable fact.
Some of the best things that have come into my life appeared simply because I am and always will be…
Turns out, I am also…
And because I’m both awkward and curious, I tend to ask uncomfortable, random, and unexpected questions.
Of total strangers.
On the reg.
It was fortuitous questions such as these, and not necessarily my awkwardness or curiosity themselves, that led me to my best friend, my first job, and my last roommate.
And since we’re already on memory lane, I’ll go ahead and share these three stories with you.
Hopefully, as you read them, your pattern—awkward, curious, or otherwise—will begin to emerge.
My Best Friend:
When I was 16, I had to go through what almost every Catholic youth dreads—Confirmation.
For those of you who are not Catholic, just imagine a 6-month process of classes, retreats, group meetings, homework, and tests that are designed to fully indoctrinate you into the faith and enable you to become a contributing member of the Church.
Now, again, imagine yourself as a 16-year-old, and please, oh please, try and convince me that you would be excited about something like this.
Ya… you can’t.
We dread Confirmation for all kinds of reasons, but mostly because, hey, we are 16 and don’t want to do homework for church, and just want to be with our friends, and blah, blah, blah insert other juvenile excuse here.
But the best and most juvenile excuse of them all is the fact that, well…
We just don’t know anybody!
And certainly don’t want to meet anyone new.
Especially at church.
Which is really sad.
Because if I had given in to that juvenile temptation, I never would have met Lucy.
So, here’s what happened.
Of course, to add insult to injury, Confirmation began by throwing all of these teens who didn't know each other into a weekend-long retreat with no contact to the outside world.
And of course, that process begins by choosing a cabin to sleep in for the entire weekend.
Even more awesome.
I’m sorry, but this is just some 7th circle of Hell type torture for high school kids.
Because, how in the world, are you supposed to decide where to sleep when you don’t know anybody?!
But nonetheless, I knew I wasn’t going to sleep on the ground, so I reluctantly walked up to the sign in sheets.
At the exact same time that she did.
We stood there next to each other for about a whole minute just looking down at the layouts of different rooms and beds… contemplating our options… contemplating running away from our options…
And then, I got awkward.
I just looked up at her and said what no one wants to admit:
Ugh, I don’t know ANYBODY.
And you know what her answer was?
Wanna stay together?
It’s been 10 years since that fateful day at the sign-in sheet, and Lucy remains one of my best and closest friends in the entire world. Despite going to different colleges and living in different cities, we’ve been able to keep in touch, visit on occasion, and most importantly, support each other through some of the best and worst times in our lives. I adore her.
All because I asked the scary, awkward, curious question.
My First Job
The summer before I left for college, I was 18 and totally broke.
I think that’s probably true of most people before and during college … but you get the idea.
With minimal corporate experience, but two eye-opening years at El Chico Mexican Café under my belt, I started looking around for a job as a server.
Having seen the depressingly-high ratio of frustration to compensation at The Chico, I decided to aim for something a bit, umm, more efficient.
That’s a PC way to say nicer restaurant, right?
Anyway, I began what would become the wildest of goose chases as I desperately searched for a higher-end restaurant that was willing to train me for only three months of service before I left for school. Apparently, a week-long investment in teaching sauces and wine pairings is worth more than three months.
Thus, I struggled.
On what was about to be my last ditch effort, I walked into Sonoma Grill, a cute but fancy Italian restaurant in Flower Mound, Texas.
Now, if you’ve never worked at a restaurant (which everyone should at some point, especially if you ever plan on eating out), here’s a little industry secret about finding the ‘decision-makers’ and getting them to ‘say yes.’
Only show up between 2 and 4pm.
If you go at any other time, whoever you meet will be too busy or too distracted to give you the time of day. Coincidently, they will immediately dislike you for ‘getting them weeded’ in the middle of ‘the rush.’ You’ll never hear back from them.
Just don’t do it.
Anyway, I showed up at 3pm, and started scanning the room for a manager working on a schedule.
Side note—this was before apps like HotSchedules and ShiftPlanning existed. Back in the day, people actually wrote out schedules by hand, generally during the down time between lunch and dinner.
Scandalizing, I know.
But there he was, sitting in the bar, just where I expected him to be.
So, confidently, I walked up, tapped this man on the shoulder, and handed him my resume.
That’s how I met Aaron.
Who, by the way, was not a manager at Sonoma Grill.
He turned to me and said:
Sorry, I don’t work here. I’m a recruiter. But, good luck!
As I walked back the front to wait at the host stand, my awkward curiosity got the better of me.
I had been recruited to play softball in college, so I turned around and asked the first question that came to mind:
What kind of recruiter?
An hour later, Aaron and I were discussing his business as a corporate recruiter in the logistics industry. It was his job to source, screen, and staff professionals ranging in function from warehouse manager to CEO. He had been running the company on his own for several years, and guess what?
He needed some help.
Aaron and I worked together that entire summer as I prepared to leave for school. He taught me the power of truthful and honest business, allowed me to cut my teeth on scary projects before I knew I should be scared, and guided me as a friend and mentor through a big transition in my life. He and I remain friends to this day, and I’ll never be able to thank him enough for his impact and influence.
All because I asked the scary, awkward, curious question.
My Last Roommate
Spring semester of my senior year in college, I had resigned myself to homelessness.
I had landed the ever-elusive job (spring of 2010, they were hard to come by), but I was still chasing the even more-elusive, perfect roommate.
My job was taking me almost 2000 miles away from home, so I knew that living alone was just not an option. I was prepared to feel a little lost and disconnected, but the thought of doing that without a roommate was unbearable.
That being said, I didn’t know a single person who wanted to live in Stamford, Connecticut.
After my initial inventory of friends and a brief but terrifying foray into the world of Craigslist roommates, I was gingerly warming myself up to the idea of living… gasp… alone.
Then, Myrtle happened.
I went to college in a place that is really, really, really cold. So, we have an annual tradition of ending the year with a much-needed road trip to a wildly-inconvenient beach—Myrtle.
Myrtle Beach is the stuff of legends. It’s where new relationships begin. It’s where friendships are solidified. It’s where nights are spent dancing in cages at Sp-oads (Spanish Toads) until 4 in the morning.
And apparently, it’s also where roommates are found.
So there I was, standing on the beach, partaking in an adult beverage, and waiting for my turn to ride on the inflatable lobster (named Larry, of course), when Dallas showed up.
Dallas was a friend of a friend, slightly above acquaintance and slightly below pal. I think the best way to describe our relationship is that we knew of each other, rather than actually knowing each other. All good things, of course.
But like I said, Myrtle brings people together.
We started talking about graduation, life after Yale, and plans for the future. I guess the urgency of finding a roommate before going back to Texas for the summer was really starting to get to me, because I just got awkward and curious and said:
Everyone is moving to Manhattan. No one wants to live in Stamford with me. What are you going to do?
If you’re sensing a pattern here, you can probably guess his response:
I’m moving to Stamford.
No way, we should TOTALLY live together.
I should have thanked that adult beverage personally for helping me channel my inner Valley Girl.
We spent the next couple hours, in between impromptu sprints to the ocean and back, talking about where to live (downtown) and how to decorate (urban-Texas theme). I was fully prepared for him to show up the next morning with no recollection of our conversation and no desire to live together.
Instead, we decided on a place the following day and put down our deposit a week later.
Without Dallas, my first year out of college would have been dreadful. He taught me how to laugh amidst uncertainty, how to work insanely hard, and how to properly drink Guinness. While he is back in Connecticut and I am now in Texas, we keep in touch and continue to support each other no matter the distance.
All because I asked the scary, awkward, curious question.
Take a look at your life and see where your patterns are. Then take that awkwardness, curiosity, or other awesome trait, and continue to use it!
Ask the awkward question-- you never know the answer you might get.
What patterns do you see in your own life? Which important people or experiences have been brought to you out of these interactions?
I believe that every greatness we enjoy right now can be traced back to one person, conversation, or observation that provided a turning point in our lives. I’d love to hear if you believe this, too.
Did this story resonate with you? Or did it make you think of a story of your own? Share your story or your reaction in the comments below.
Because sharing stories an instinctual, powerful way to touch the hearts of others and change the world around us.